This trip was basically a pre-run to what is going to be a much longer ride at the end of the month. Last summer, after my ride to Ontario, I had started planning this summer's trip: a ride to Inuvik, NWT, via the Dempster Highway (duh, no other way to get there). Earlier this year, I had mentioned to my dad that if he'd like to come too, he was welcome to. He'd recently bought a DRZ400, and was strongly considering it.
The Inuvik trip I had mapped out called for long days for the first few to get some mileage under us and enjoy the Yukon a bit more. My dad was quite concerned that he and the DRZ would not be up for this, so we started figuring out the best ways to "Adventurize" the bike. Other than offroad protection (handguards, rad guards, case protectors), this is what was modified:
-the seat: when he purchased the bike, it came witha Suzuki gel seat. This is fine for short days, but does not cut it for the longer ones. I had heard of "Sweetcheeks" from a thread on ADVrider, and thought that it would be the ticket. Basically, it's a cover that goes over the seat that fits two 2L pop bottles, one on either side, to give your butt a wider platform to sit on. This was coupled with a bit of sleeping mat foam in the middle, and an Alaska Leather dualsport buttpad to top it all off.
-wind protection: we all know that long highway jaunts sure tend to blow a person around, which adds a significant amount of fatigue. I had a bar-mount windshield kicking around from my trip across to Ontario that an ADVer had given me. It needed some mounts made, but my dad put a system together that gave him solid, yet adjustable, wind protection
-the tank: range was a large issue, so a Clarke 15L tank was fitted to extend range. This, along with 3x1L oil bottles full of fuel, should give him the range he needs for the longest section, between the junction for the Dempster and Eagle Plains, ~380Km.
-luggage: the bike was purchased with a nice set of racks on top and sides for carrying soft bags. My dad had old soft bags from his earlier days of riding that he rigged to fit the sides, purchased dry bags for his camping gear, and fitted a cheap pair of Princess Auto ATV tank panniers to the front for fluids. He's also got an aluminum tool tube mounted on the non-exhaust side. With all this, the little mule can carry all we need to camp/cook out on the trip. A Wolfman Enduro tankbag rounded everything out.
So, after a few months of talking, ordering, and tinkering, it was time to see how the luggage all worked. My KLR was pretty much ready to roll: from prior camping trips, I had gotten it set up to carry all I would need. I was also using an Alaska Leather buttpad over my stock seat to give that extra comfort.
The night before was spent tightening straps, lubing/adjusting the chain, checking the oil, and trying to remember if we forgot anything.
The next morning, bright and (not really that) early, there wasn't anything left to do but leave.
The first day was as follows:
We carried on upwards along the Fraser, then Thompson River, enjoying the sights, the twisties, and the odd bulk hauler bringing Vancouver's garbage up to Cache Creek.
The DRZ was ticking along just dandy, with no complaints from the rider, my dad.
Coffee in Savona, and it was onward to Kamloops.
My dad wanted to run the Clarke tank completely dry at some point in time to figure out the actual range he would have at extended highway rpms. We decided the best time to do it was at the beginning of the trip, and estimated that Kamloops would be the probable location of dry-running at approximately 300km. At 275km, he hit reserve, I took up the rear, and kept an eye on his 6 o'clock for the inevitable time of stalling out.
We carried on the freeway through Kamloops, missed our turn to take us north to Jasper, which worked out perfectly. Not 500m past the exit that would have taken us onto an overpass, the DRZ putted out, about 100m from a Shell station. A bit of pushing, and we knew how much range it had.
This was at low elevation, with a reasonably heavy load, hills, and sustained 100km/h on stock gearing. He made it 306km before it ticked out completely.
With that information in hand, we headed north on the Yellowhead. Through McLure/Barriere, the site of forest fires a few years back, and onward to lunch at Little Fort.
As we sat and ate lunch, we noticed we weren't the only ones out for a two-wheeled adventure.
Slurpee on a scooter. That's the life right there.
Onward and Northward we carried, through some relatively uninspiring landscape (rocks and trees and water), as we drew ever nearer the Rockies.
A KLR popped out in front of me from a side-road, carried on the highway for a few meters, then popped back off onto another side road. It was red, and as it rode alongside the highway, I could see it had one of Ian's fairings too. I had to turn around and get a photo.
It was an original XS fairing, retaining the square headlight of the stock KLR.
At this point, we decided to switch bikes, so I could see if the lack of complaint from the old man was due to his ridiculous amount of fortitude, or whether the bike was simply set up well for long-distance travel.
Turns out it was the latter. That bike felt, dare I say, more comfortable than my KLR. The wind protection was fantastic, and the seat was luxurious. The power it had, fully loaded, at highway speeds was, although not heart-stoppingly badass, quite good, with extra for any passing that had to take place.
As I hopped back on the KLR, the Rockies drew closer, as I contemplated how excellent that little DRZ was and battled buffeting from increasing side-winds.
As we turned onto Highway 16, Mt. Robson loomed before us, beckoning us into the embrace of rugged, snow-capped beauty.
Eastward we carried, along high-altitude lakes, taking in scenic mountain vistas, and generally having a fantastic time.
Finally, we made it. Alberta. The promised land. You could smell the beef a rustlin', the oil a pumpin', and the drivers a speedin'.
So ended our first day. We set up camp anddebriefed on what the day had brought.
At a relaxed pace with lots of breaks, we had made it there by 7:30pm (we stayed on Pacific time)after leaving at 7am. Total mileage for the day landed at 755km. We were tired, but not exhausted. The adventurized DRZ burned no oil, led to no monkey butt, and encouraged another day of excellent riding when the sun returned. I was doing just dandy as well, with the KLR running strong (as strong as KLRs do), and me feeling as ready as my dad for another day.
We went to bed at a little over 1000m, with a slight rain pattering on our tents, and the cold readily apparent. The Icefields Parkway waited for our arrival in the morning.